Category Archives: organic

Non-GMO food labels are more important to consumers than organic food labels

What’s more important to you as a conscientious food consumer – purchasing non-GMO labeled foods or foods labeled organic? While that might strike you as an odd question, it’s important to remember that while all organic food is non-GMO, not all non-GMO food is organic. Do you think it’s possible that non-GMO food labels are more important to consumers than organic food labels? thinks you’ll find the answer pretty fascinating.

Natural-foods makers have spent years going after the industry establishment. Now, they are taking on each other.

Surging sales of foods marketed as made without genetically modified crops are outpacing sales of food labeled organic in U.S. grocery stores. That is frustrating some organic companies and farmers, who invest significant sums to meet government organic standards and to get their foods certified.

The organic industry is responding with marketing campaigns touting that its foods—in addition to being made without genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as such crops are known—also abide by other requirements.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has certified organic foods since 2002, requires that producers also keep out most synthetic pesticides and certain fertilizers, and that animals used to produce organic food can go outdoors year-round and aren’t given hormones or antibiotics.

“Organic is non-GMO,” said Cathy Calfo, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, a trade group that recently started promoting a new label to highlight the difference. “Non-GMO is not organic.”

The federal government doesn’t regulate non-GMO labeling. Instead, certification is done by private groups, mainly the Non-GMO Project. The Bellingham, Wash., nonprofit doesn’t prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides on crops used as ingredients, or ensure animal-welfare standards. But it says it tests more stringently to ensure GMOs aren’t inadvertently mixed into ingredients during transportation or production.

The distinctions might seem like hairsplitting, but they matter for companies. Earning the Non-GMO Project’s imprimatur or the USDA’s organic certification can take months or years, depending on the item and the applicant backlog. Each can cost thousands of dollars initially, and must be renewed annually—a significant expense for smaller producers. Prices for organic and non-GMO ingredients also are significantly higher than regular ones.

GMOs have become a focus of skeptical consumers. U.S. government agencies and international bodies including the World Health Organization long have said that GMOs—whose DNA is altered to withstand pests or weedkilling sprays—are safe. But the technology’s critics say it facilitates harmful use of pesticides and that GMOs’ safety for human consumption isn’t proven.
That doubt has driven rapid growth for non-GMO foods, which this year are on pace to surpass those of food bearing the USDA’s certified organic seal, according to data compiled by research company Spins LLC.

Non-GMO sales soared by an average of about 70% annually from 2013 through this year, and are expected to top $13 billion this year. That is five times the rate for food tracked by Spins that bears the organic seal, sales of which total nearly $11 billion for the 52 weeks ended Nov 1. The Spins data don’t include sales from Whole Foods Market Inc., a major seller of both categories.
The USDA’s organic certification applies to foods that are 95% or more organic. The Organic Trade Association, whose numbers include estimates of Whole Foods sales and some other retailers not measured by Spins, touts the much larger figure of $35.9 billion in 2014 for foods containing 70% or more organic ingredients.

One category’s growth can come at the expense of another’s, since specialty foods often compete for the same limited shelf space in supermarkets. Last year, foods labeled non-GMO claimed 3.7% of total food sales in U.S. grocery stores, more than the 3.5% for organic items, according to market-research firmNielsen NV. About 49% of consumers polled by Nielsen called non-GMO an important factor in food-and-beverage shopping, versus 47% for organic.

Organic-food companies say many consumers are confused about the labels’ different attributes. Vernon Peterson, owner of Abundant Harvest Organics in Kingsburg, Calif., says he often receives inquiries about the peaches, persimmons and other crops that his company distributes to customers including Kroger Co. and Whole Foods.

“Even though we [are] a 100% organic company, I get a question or two a week, ‘is any of your produce genetically modified?’” he said. “We see the consumer putting a higher value on the non-GMO than the organic label.”

Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, said the “relationship between non-GMO and organic is probably the most politically sensitive thing we deal with, and we’re careful not to undermine consumer trust in the organic label.” She said consumer confusion around the definition of organic predates the Non-GMO Project, but she acknowledged that some organic-food producers have expressed concerns about her group infringing on their turf.

Rising non-GMO food sales are “a two-edged sword,” said Oren Holle, a longtime organic farmer in Bremen, Kan. While some consumers may migrate from those to organic foods, Mr. Holle said he worries about “a perception out there that if I buy the non-GMO it’s a little less costly when you run up to the checkout counter, and it’s just about as good.”

Mr. Holle last year participated in an online-video campaign trumpeting organic food’s purported superiority over items that are only non-GMO. The Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing Inc., a cooperative that funded the campaign, is now discussing marketing materials that brand organic as “the real non-GMO.”

California Certified Organic Farmers, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., debuted its new label in March that boasts “Organic is non-GMO & more.” The labels are designed to attract shoppers looking for non-GMO foods while highlighting organic’s curbs on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, said Ms. Calfo.

Mr. Peterson hopes the new label, which he has added to Abundant Harvest products, will clarify things. “When you have a confused public, it’s never good,” he said.

Some bigger organic brands are more sanguine.

George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative of organic farms, said that while some consumers may find non-GMO easier to understand, it ultimately will boost organic-food sales by drawing more attention to how food is produced.

Still, Mr. Siemon said that Organic Valley is considering adding a non-GMO label to some of its products.

For, the preference makes perfect sense. Knowing that organic foods are already non-GMO, it’s important to understand which foods are non-GMO in addition to organics. A lot of current consumer response can be based on trust – or lack thereof – in the quality of ingredients existing in our food supply. The inability to identify non-GMO foods on a consistent basis is an issue of consumers in the U.S. A label makes all the difference.

Tips for fitting organic into your monthly food budget hears the lament often, “I’d love to eat organic, but it’s just too expensive.” While we certainly sympathize, we’re not the kind to sit back and forego all the benefits of organic foods without at least making a real effort to fit the current prices of organic into our budgets. We’ve looked around and we’ve come across an article from Huffington Post sharing some good tips for fitting organic into your monthly food budget that really make sense!

Many people who want to eat organic food think they can’t afford it. They know that organic food costs more than standard grocery store fare, so they assume that an organic diet is out of their price range. That’s what I used to think, but a recent experiment showed me that my family can eat a lot of organic food without spending more money.

Several months ago, we switched to a whole food, primarily organic, diet. Although our normal diet is fairly healthy, we had read about the anti-inflammatory benefits of a “clean” diet and wanted to see if it would reduce the arthritis pain in my husband’s hands. (It did.) We tried it out for a month, eating organic dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, high-quality meat and chicken (about half organic), organic grains, free-range eggs, nuts, coconut oil and olive oil. We eliminated white sugar and white flour and almost all wheat products. We ate no processed food, and we rarely ate out.

And we waited for our food budget to collapse.

But it didn’t happen. Our average monthly food bill (groceries + eating out) for that month was slightly lower than the previous month. Not much lower (less than 1%), but lower nonetheless. So we actually spent less but ate better. Here are 7 things we did that reduced the cost of eating organic and whole food:

• Get organized. Unless you have money to burn, you can’t wing it on a whole food diet – you need a plan. The first step is to make a menu and grocery list every week. Although I normally plan dinners, I found that I needed to plan breakfasts and lunches too, because we couldn’t fall back on a bagel or frozen meal in a pinch. Next, organize your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Get rid of foods you don’t want to eat. Take stock of the organic and whole foods you already have on hand and put them where you can find them quickly and easily. Then, keep those areas organized; take 10 minutes every weekend to keep your refrigerator, freezer and pantry under control.

• Use everything and don’t waste anything. I hate to waste food, but I sometimes lose track of what’s in the refrigerator and end up throwing things away. But I can’t afford to throw away organic food, and you probably can’t either. So keep track of what you have and don’t let anything go to waste. Put the date on leftovers so they don’t get too old to eat. If something needs to be eaten, incorporate it into your meal plan. If you can’t, freeze it. I could have kicked myself when I had to throw away delicious soup made from an organic chicken, simply because I didn’t use it or freeze it in time.

• Keep things simple. Don’t complicate your life with elaborate meals or stress your budget with prepared organic foods. Instead, stick with simple foods prepared well. Grilled chicken breasts, baked sweet potatoes and a tossed salad, for example, or London broil with roasted new potatoes and vegetables, make simple, delicious meals that save money, time and stress.

• Take advantage of low prices, sales and discounts. Discount stores carry some organic items, and stores like Costco and Aldi are increasing the number of organic foods they sell. I bought staples, including organic tomato sauce, flour, butter and milk, at Wal-mart. Farmer’s markets offer a wide array of fresh produce, often at very reasonable prices. Even the high-end grocery stores, which many people assume they can’t afford, run sales and offer discounts. So sign up for their text or email deals and install their apps on your phone. I rarely went to Earthfare without one of their “$10 off $70 purchase” discounts, and I stocked up on items there as they went on sale.

• Make some foods you would normally buy. We figured out early in this experiment that we needed to have more healthy snacks on hand. But most snack foods are pricey and contain ingredients we were trying to avoid. So we started making toasted walnuts, energy bars and granola every weekend. They satisfied our snack cravings and could fill in as an emergency breakfast if needed. I also made homemade salad dressings every week, and we started experimenting with making yogurt (because organic Greek yogurt is really expensive!).

• Cook extra whenever possible. Many meals can be doubled easily, with almost no extra work or mess. Cooking extra food saves time, but it also saves money. When you can turn leftover dinner into lunches to take to work, it reduces the likelihood that you’ll have to run out and grab something from a restaurant. And when you make a double batch of dinner and freeze half, you have a healthy and inexpensive “fast food” dinner on hand for a particularly hectic night, when you might otherwise pick up a fast food meal or go out to dinner.

• Cut way back on eating out. Making this change does two things. First, it helps you stick to your real food eating plan, because it’s difficult to eat clean in a restaurant. Second, it keeps food costs down because, let’s face it, eating out gets expensive.

A diet based on organic and whole foods isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t have to break the bank either. With a bit of planning, organization and effort, you can eat well and feed your family well without blowing your food budget.

These are great ideas. We especially like the advice of keeping meals simple. No prepared foods are necessary. No extra ingredients that might cost you more. Just excellent food that doesn’t take hours to prepare with costs that are kept under control. Leftovers are great things. In the first place, you won’t need to purchase lunch – and the lunch you’ll be taking from home will be healthier than anything you’d be buying that afternoon.

We all deserve the healthiest foods available. With a little planning and some experimenting you can incorporate organic food into your monthly budget and enjoy the advantages it will afford your health and well being.

Can Annie’s Homegrown survive General Mills’ ownership in tact? was quite surprised to hear the news that Annie’s Homegrown has been purchased and incorporated into the General Mills’ family of products. We were immediately reminded of Kashi and the Kellogg Company. While Kashi has been able to maintain some of its previous commitment to food quality, we do have to think about a long list of difficulties that have included lawsuits regarding unsubstantiated “natural” claims for many of its products. That wouldn’t have happened prior to its mainstream ownership. So what will happen to Annie’s Homegrown and can we anticipate the same sort of problems occurring with this much-loved brand?

Annie’s Homegrown specializes in good-for-your versions of guilty foods like Hamburger Helper. Now it has been bought by the company that actually makes Hamburger Helper. In mid-September, Annie’s became the sister of Betty Crocker and dozens of other non-natural brands that make up the food conglomerate General Mills.

Does this mean that Annie’s Cheeseburger Skillet meal, made from organic pasta and non-GMO ingredients, will soon become an unhealthy stew of trans fats, MSG, and the artificial flavors found in Hamburger Helper’s Cheeseburger Macaroni? Will future versions of Annie’s cute little cheddar bunny crackers contain Franken-ingredients like the de-germed yellow corn meal found in GM’s Chex Mix?

Probably not. GM may be the home of Lucky Charms and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also owns the organic and natural brands Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar. Food experts say there’s no reason GM would pay millions of dollars for these trusted brands just to destroy them. Of course, GM could make subtle ingredient changes that would slowly de-healthify its natural and organic brands to save money.

But retailers believe that, so far, this hasn’t been the case. David Clark, COO of online grocer Door to Door Organics, says despite being owned by General Mills for 15 years, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products still meet Door to Door’s standards, which include having no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, or artificial flavors or colors. He hopes the same will hold true for Annie’s.

We hope they’re right. Even we have to admit that the General Mills’ brand family DOES in fact include natural and organic brands. The problem with that, though, is that there are many consumers who think twice before picking up a Cascadian Farm organic product BECAUSE of its General Mills’ ownership. We know that there are countless families who depend on Annie’s products for their children. They choose Cheddar Bunnies instead of Goldfish, Cheeseburger Skillet Meal instead of Hamburger Helper, Mac and Cheese with real ingredients. Annie’s Homegrown plays an important role in the lives of nutritionally aware families. It’s a role we hope continues regardless of their ownership.

More antioxidants. Less Pesticides. Real benefits linked to organic foods.

SONY DSCWe love organic foods for a variety of reasons. Organic crops are raised on organic farms. They’re non-GMO. Farming methods are different — and better. Organic food products contain better ingredients. Most don’t contain controversial items. Not to mention, we can easily pronounce most of the items contained in the ingredient list. Overall, a much better concept for our healthy lifestyles. A while back, though there were studies that claimed that no increased nutritional benefits were found from organic food consumption vs. non-organic.

The debate has been raging for years, does organic food have any actual nutritional benefit over non-organic? For a long time, science couldn’t find a conclusive answer. However, a review of earlier studies may have found something that got missed. This review found that organic fruit, vegetables, and grain have a substantially higher level of antioxidants than conventional produce, and a lower level of pesticides.

Carlo Leifert, professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England and led the research, said, “It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact. If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

The full study stops just short of making the claim organic produce leads to better health and will be published in next week in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Of this, Leifert said, “We are not making health claims based on this study, because we can’t. [The study is insufficient] to say organic food is definitely healthier for you, and it doesn’t tell you anything about how much of a health impact switching to organic food could have.”

However, the authors of the research, so point out that other studies have suggested that antioxidants have been linked to lower risks of cancer and other disease. These findings are the opposite of a similar study done by Stanford scientists two years ago. That research found few differences in nutritional content of conventionally and organically grown food. They concluded that the small differences they did find were not likely to have any influence on the health of consumers who chose organic, which is usually significantly more expensive.

The Stanford study confirmed the pesticide findings in this new research, finding that the level of pesticide residue are several times higher for conventionally grown produce but this research said the findings were of little significance since all the levels were mostly below safety limits.

For the most part, organic farming eliminates all conventional pesticides and chemical fertilizers. These growing practices mean healthier soil but often produce less at harvest. The Organic Trade Association estimates organic food sales in the United States in 2013 were $32.3 billion, just 4% of the total market.

The debate over whether organic produce has more nutritional value has been hotly contested, naysayers insisting that organic is just a marketing ploy so that companies can charge more.

Alan D. Dangour, a researcher for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “The other argument would be, if you just eat a little bit more fruits and vegetables, you’re going to get more nutrients.” Dangour was the leader of a published review in 2009 that stated no nutritional differences of any significance between organic and conventional produce.

Sometimes, it is difficult to quantify these kinds of differences since the factors can vary widely from different places where the food is grown, or even year to year. Differences in things like weather can influence the nutrients found in food. But, even if the differences do exist, it would be difficult to determine what, if any, effect they would have on consumer health.

In the new research, the international team of scientists didn’t conduct any field work or laboratory work of their own. They compiled information from 343 previous studies and performed a meta-analysis to try and find out significant pieces of information. Some of the studies included recorded many different measurements while other only had a handful. Some looked at a few samples of food and others looked at food samples over several years. If properly done, the meta-analysis can produce greater information than the average of the included studies.

Overall, for all studies, organic crops were found to contain 17% more antioxidants than conventional crops. For some kinds of antioxidants, the different was even greater. For example, flavanones were 69% higher in organic produce. For some compounds, very high levels can be harmful but the organic produce was well below these levels.

The research also found that organic grains have lower levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that can sometimes contaminate fertilizers. There was no other differences in other toxic metals such as lead or mercury.

Even with the differences, it is leading to questions from the scientific community over why it matters. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said, “After that, everything is speculative. It’s a really hard question to answer.”

Nestle indicated that she mainly buys organic to avoid pesticides and its benefit to the environment. She states that if they are more nutritious, great but it is hard to say how significant that bonus is. understands that right now the nutritional benefits of organic food may be difficult to quantify. We’re also fairly sure that the benefits reviewed here are a plus for our health, even if they can’t currently be gaged. So while the arguments may rage on, we’re still certain we know what we’d rather be eating. We hope that everyone else is too.

Organic foods from Walmart at non-organic prices

Walmart Organic Foods at Non-Organic PricesOver time we’ve seen the emergence of a variety of different types of food consumers. There are many who are dedicated to purchasing only organic products. There are some that will buy certain organic products, while opting out of others. Some folks aren’t concerned with organics at all. And some really are concerned but simply believe they can’t afford the organic products they’d  like to purchase.

And for those in that last group, Walmart believes they have the answer. Earlier this month, Walmart announced it will carry Wild Oats organic food items. Originally introduced in 1987, Wild Oats will relaunch at Walmart starting this month with a new, more affordable price point on quality products covering a broad variety of categories – from salsa and pasta sauce to quinoa and chicken broth. Customers will save 25 percent or more when comparing Wild Oats to national brand organic products.

Wild Oats will feature the following lines at Walmart:

Wild Oats Marketplace Organic™, which adheres to USDA guidelines for organic certification and includes everything from canned vegetables (15 oz) at $.88 to a full range of spices such as paprika, curry powder and ground cinnamon (2 oz) starting at $2.48. Organic items represent nearly 90 percent of the Wild Oats offering.

Wild Oats Marketplace™, which includes products with simple and real ingredients such as ready-to-prepare skillet meals (5.8 oz) at $1.50.

Wild Oats Marketplace Originals™, offering new and uniquely formulated items, will be available later this year.

“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery at Walmart U.S. “We are changing that and creating a new price position for organic groceries that increases access. This is part of our ongoing effort to use our scale to deliver quality, affordable groceries to our customers.”

This sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? recently read a feature on that attempts to call into question the validity of the idea. We really think it’s worth a mention.

They spoke with Coach Mark Smallwood, executive director of The Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Penn., about how Walmart could manage to offer such low prices, and what that might mean for organic farmers across the country.

Smallwood explains that the concept of a “premium” associated with organic food is misleading, because the price of an organic good reflects the true cost of its production.
“The issue is that there aren’t the subsidies available to organic farmers that there are [for conventional farmers.] So there’s a question in my mind about how Walmart is going to pull this off and be able to make profit,” Smallwood said. “And for them to even come out and make that statement before they’ve started is a huge question mark. Somebody’s going to have to pay, and my hope is that it’s not the organic farmer.”

Smallwood also shared his concern that if Walmart were to incentivize large-scale organic production, industrial organic practices would become more widespread. In this model, farmers adhere to just the bare minimum of organic standards and ultimately end up depleting soil health on a piece of land, abandoning it, and moving on to another.

“Will a large agricultural operation come in and buy up tens of small family farms and put them all under one name, and then create that slash-and-burn model?” Smallwood said. “That’s what I’m afraid of. That’s the [possible] downside.”

For the optimists in all of us, let us remember that it’s too soon to know exactly which approach Walmart will take. As Smallwood says: “The potential is there for [organic farmers] to be treated very well, and paid handsomely for the wonderful artisan stewardship of the planet. What is that worth to Walmart? We’re going to find out.” reached out to Walmart specifically to ask if the company was planning to source from small-scale farmers, and where its farmers would be located geographically.
This was their response via email:

Regarding your questions, we are working with our suppliers to create a surety of demand which ultimately helps us pass along savings to our customers. We’re using our scale to deliver quality, organic groceries to our customers for less. When we do this, it’s a win, win, win situation for our customers, our suppliers and our company. Our customers can trust that they will save money at Walmart, our suppliers can count on us for the demand and we are able to offer innovative new products.

We’re not exactly sure how that response answered the original question. It certainly didn’t give us any insight into their plans. We’re also not sure how dedicated organic food consumers would feel about purchasing organic products that come from Walmart. It’s evident to that organic consumers are very brand sensitive and are hesitant to purchase organic products produced by mainstream brands. While it’s true that this new line of well-priced organic options may make organics more accessible to the masses, there are certainly many questions surrounding the Walmart launch. Plenty of questions. No answers yet. Stay tuned.

Looking for more Omega-3s? Organic Milk packs 62% more than its conventional counterpart!

There have been a few studies published in the last year or so that have pointed to the idea that organic food options may not be all that different from non-organic choices. certainly understands that there may be any number of reasons that organic doesn’t work for every consumer. Cost is certainly at the top of that list. But we’ve always liked organic options. Most meaningful for us here at, the ingredient lists detailed on most organic products are by and large vastly better than those found for non-organic products. But what about nutritional benefits?

At least for milk, we’re now learning that there is a difference between organic and non-organic options. A new study is reporting that whole milk from organic dairies contains far more of some of the fatty acids that contribute to a healthy heart than conventional milk. Drinking whole organic milk may likely lessen the risk factor for heart disease.

The study was headed by Charles M. Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is the most clear-cut finding of nutritional advantage of organic food over its non-organic counterpart. Previous studies comparing organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables have not been as conclusive.

Benbrook says that drinking whole organic milk “will certainly lessen the risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

“All milk is healthy and good for people,” he continued, “but organic milk is better, because it has a more favorable balance of these fatty acids” — omega-3, typically found in fish and flaxseed, versus omega-6, which is abundant in many fried foods like potato chips.

Government regulations for organic labeling require that dairy cows must spend a certain amount of the time in the pasture, eating grassy plants high in omega-3s. Conventional milk comes from cows that are mostly fed corn, which is high in omega-6s. Nonorganic cows that graze in pastures also produce milk with greater amounts of omega-3s.
While this research was largely funded by Organic Valley, a farm cooperative that sells organic dairy products, experts not connected with the study said the findings are credible — though they noted that the role of milk in a healthy diet and the influence of fatty acids in preventing or causing cardiovascular disease are far from settled.

“I think this is a very good piece of work,” said Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a nutritional neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers looked at 384 samples of organic and conventional whole milk taken over 18 months around the country. Although the total amount of fat was almost the same, the organic milk contained 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent fewer omega-6s.

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the organic milk was 2.28, much lower than the 5.77 ratio in conventional milk. (The figures do not apply to nonfat milk, which strips away the fatty acids.)

Nutrition experts broadly agree that omega-3 acids offer numerous health benefits. But experts disagree sharply whether omega-6 consumption should be reduced.
In ancient times, people ate roughly equal amounts of the two fatty acids. Today most Americans now eat more than 10 times as much omega-6, which is prevalent in certain vegetable oils and thus also fried foods, as omega-3.

While omega-6 is essential, some health studies suggest that such a wide disparity is associated with many ills, Dr. Benbrook said. A shift to drinking organic whole milk — and raising consumption from the currently recommended three servings a day to 4.5 — would take a big step to lowering the ratio, he said, although adjustments would have to be made elsewhere in the diet to offset the added calories of the milk fat.

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, did not question the underlying data in the study. But he said the conclusions and recommendations were based on the “false assumption” that omega-6 fatty acids are harmful.

Dr. Willett said omega-6s were actually associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and he called the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s “irrelevant.” People should try to eat more of both, he said.

But Dr. Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health, who has conducted research on the effects of fatty acids on heart disease, said animal studies showed that high levels of omega-6s interfered with omega-3s.

At the same time, though, he cautioned that the mix of omega-3s in milk is different from that in fatty fish. The simple ratio, he said, “is not as meaningful as we would like it to be.”

Still, he endorsed the organic milk recommendation. “You’re heading in the right direction,” he said.

This is great information – even with the differences of opinion noted here. We’re happy to see that although a manufacturer contributed funding for this study; third party experts are comfortable with its methodology and endorsing its results. thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to discover that dairy cows fed a different diet will produce milk offering a different nutritional profile. Organic whole milk appears to offer a distinct nutritional advantage. So if you’re considering where to start incorporating organic products into your diet, organic whole milk may be a great place to begin!

Consumer perception of organic labels … the “Health Halo Effect” consistently adds organic food products to our database. There are so many reasons for consumers to consider organic alternatives to common food products … organics generally don’t contain controversial ingredients or genetically modified ingredients. In addition, many organic products contain less calories, fats, sugar and sodium than their traditional counterparts. That’s not to say, however, that we should refrain from reading labels for organic products. There are those that aren’t stellar … and even some whose non-organic counterparts present consumers with better choices. We’re stalwart label readers. And we encourage our community to follow suit. We are concerned that the word “organic” can automatically lead consumers to relate a product with a healthy option.

An organic food label can be a very powerful persuader in consumer purchasing decisions. This has been dubbed the “Health Halo Effect.” Consumers can be biased towards organic products simply because they are labeled organic. A new study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab has now shown that an organic label can have even greater influence than previously thought. Not only can consumers relate organic products to health. Those labels can also significantly alter the consumers’ view of a products taste, calorie content and nutritional value.

Researchers recruited 115 participants from a shopping mall in Ithaca, New York for the study. The participants were each presented with three pairs of products – two yogurt products, two cookie products and two potato chip products. They had labeled one product from each pair as organic, while the other was labeled “regular”. The participants were actually tricked. Every product they were presented with was, in fact, organic. In fact the pairs were actually identical products. Participants were asked to rate the taste of each item, as well as estimate the calorie count for each. They were also asked how much they would be willing to pay for each product sampled. A questionnaire was given to each that inquired about their environmental and shopping habits.

Even though these foods were all the same, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions. The participants all estimated that the cookie and yogurt products that were labeled organic had significantly fewer calories than the “regular” products. People stated that they were willing to pay over 23% more for those products labeled organic. In addition to their assumptions regarding the caloric content of the organic products, participants said that these products tasted like they were lower in fat than those that were labeled “regular”. They told the research that all the products labeled as “organic” were more nutritious than those labeled “regular” – even the cookies and chips. The yogurt was judged to be more flavorful when labeled organic and the chips appeared to be more appetizing. “Regular” cookies were reported to taste better – possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. The products , labeled as organic were obviously wearing a “Health Halo”, since the foods labeled as “regular” weren’t regular at all.

The questionnaire helped to better determine who is most susceptible to this “Health Halo” effect. People who regularly read nutrition labels, regularly purchase organic foods and exhibit pro-environmental behaviors like recycling were less susceptible to the organic “Health Halo” effect. Those consumers whose habits did not include these actions were more prone to believe that the products were completely different and that the organic product had to be better simply because it was labeled as “organic”. finds this information somewhat troubling. Not all organic products are created equally. While most are, in fact, superior to their non-organic counterparts, consumers still need to read labels to be certain of the ingredients and nutritional value of every product they consume. Reading and understanding food labels is key to a healthy diet and should be a habit to which every consumer commits, regardless of the words they find on a package.

Organic vs. Conventional … there really is a debate going on read the reports that were all over the internet today about the new research claiming that organic produce and meat really isn’t any better for you than conventionally farmed products. We’d like for our community to look into this and think about the information very carefully.

Within this research, over 200 studies comparing the health of folks eating organic and conventional foods and specifically nutrient and contaminant levels in those foods. While, in fact, organic options contain lower amounts of pesticide residue and antibiotic resistant bacteria, the amounts in those organic options did not appear to be substantially less that those present in their non-organic counterparts.

The foods reviewed were fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, poultry, eggs and milk. Many of the studies included in the review did not specify standards for the organic foods included. Department of Agriculture standards state that organic farms must avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer as well as hormones and antibiotics. By contrast conventional farming can use pesticides and use antibiotics in their feeds to prevent disease and increase animal growth. It’s important to note that the FDA has been examining how the use of antibiotics in farm animals has contributed to drug-resistant disease in humans.

What was examined in the review of the studies showed that there was no difference in the amount of vitamins in plant or animal products produced organically as opposed to conventionally, with the exception of slightly more phosphorus being present in the organic products. In a few studies it was found that organic milk and chicken can contain more omega-3 fatty acids.

When it came to pesticide residues, which were also examined, there was a more apparent difference, with one third of conventional products having detectible pesticide residues than organic products. And organic chicken and pork was 33 percent less likely to carry bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than conventionally-produced meat. It was noted, however that it wasn’t typical for either organic or conventional foods to exceed allowable pesticide limits.

While it was noted that more research is necessary to explore the health and safety differences between organic and conventional foods and that it is too early to actually state that organics aren’t healthier than conventional foods, it was noted that consumers might want to consider pesticide levels an important factor in purchasing decisions. would like to note that nowhere in the articles we reviewed pertaining to these findings did we find any mention of genetically modified organisms and their possible impact on the health of consumers. Many studies have been released that have shown preliminary links between the presence of GMOs in the food supply and obesity. And while more study is required to substantiate those links, it would be shortsighted to exclude them from any review of organic vs. non-organic foods.

We encourage our community to read more. Start here:

Some consumers willing to pay more for GMO foods

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According to a recent study done by researcher Wallace Huffman at Iowa State University, research shows that some consumers will pay up to 25% more for genetically modified foods. For the few of you that may not know, genetic modification is basically carrying genes from one organism into another to create a new hybrid product. This became popular within the last 2 decades, and we’re still not quite sure if there are any long-term health implications involved. However, it’s still being done by major biotechnology companies, and apparently some people are willing to pay extra bucks for it.

Why are some willing to pay more money? There has been a lot of hype surrounding antioxidants, and some vitamins and minerals. We too recognize that these nutrients can provide an abundance of health benefits, and we suggest getting them from natural sources. However, some fruits and vegetables now undergo intragenic modification (modified within own species, rather than from other species) to take antioxidant properties from other plants, and insert them into new ones. This means that some produce that once lacked a certain vitamin or antioxidant, now has the ability to carry different nutrients.

Some farmers and home-gardeners try accomplishing this through cross-breeding, however this can be very difficult to do with many plants. This is when genetic modification came into play, eliminating the difficulties with cross-breeding.
However, many are still skeptic about purchasing any genetically modified product. Again, we’re not exactly sure of any long-term effects or health implications that this process may cause, because it is still fairly new.

Few studies using animals as subjects have suggested genetic modification to cause renal damage, progressive tumor growth, certain types of cancers, and cardiovascular issues. However, these studies have been for the most part small in sample size and brushed off by government agencies.

“The basic idea is that when consumers saw that the intragenic produce had elevated healthful attributes, they were willing to pay more for them,” said Huffman.

What do you think? Would you be more at comfort knowing a genetically modified product was modified with a plant within its own species rather than a plant outside of its species? Or is genetic modification still lacking evidence for you to trust it at all?

Don’t buy ALL organic?

speedgroceryshopping2 recently stumbled upon an article featured in Prevention Magazine which suggests that consumers don’t need to buy ALL organic. As we notice on a daily basis, a top reason for buying organic seems to be the relationship between 80% of our food supply and GMO’s. Let us know what YOU think about this article!

Foods not worth buying organic
Step into any health food store, and you may feel as though you’ve stepped into an alternate universe: On those earthy-crunchy shelves, you’re likely to find an organic version of just about everything, including cotton candy and chewing gum. White it’s true that organic “junk foods” are better for the planet (possibly due to less packaging or more environmentally sound manufacturing processes), they generally aren’t better for you.

Similarly, certain fruits and vegetables that are available in organic varieties may be just fine in their conventional form. A shopping guide created by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) includes a list of the “clean 15″ the conventional produce selections that are lowest in pesticides and therefore OK to purchase.
The bottom line is that you needn’t go organic across the board. Here are some items that you can confidently buy in conventional form:

A six-pack of organic soda can cost $ or more. Yes, it’s made without high-fructose corn syrup, but each can contains 160 calories (20 more than 12 ounces of Coca-Cola Classic) and zero nutrients.

Low Calorie or Sugar-Free Items
If organic sugar-free cookies sound too good to be true, they probably are. Check the label for artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. If you’re trying to keep it natural, you’re better off choosing a non-organic baked treat that’s free of fake sugars.

Whether caught in the wild or farmed, fish can legally be labeled organic, even though it may contain contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, according to the Consumer Union. That’s because the USDA has not yet developed organic certification standards for seafood.

These underground wonders rank lowest on the EWG’s pesticide-load list. Stock up with conventional onions at the supermarket, and store them in a cool, dry place such as a pantry closet or low-humidity refrigerator door.

Frozen Sweet Corn
So much easier to prepare and enjoy than shucking niblets from the cob, and readily available year-round, conventional frozen corn is considered extremely low in pesticides. Use it in soups or cornbread mix.

More than half of the tomatoes screened by the EWG contained no detectible pesticides, though they were most likely to have evidence of more than one kind of pesticide.


Just over one-quarter of the EWG’s samples showed evidence of pesticides. Ripe watermelons usually are a uniform color inside and shiny outside.

(Prevention Magazine)